Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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Do Crime Statistics Lie? Statistics can be used in many ways. Through the proper collection and subsequent interpretation of data, statistics become a valuable resource in backing up research. Used correctly they can show improvements or relapses in any number of areas, from cake sales to murder rates. However it is also the case that misinterpretation, either deliberately or accidentally, can totally change the perspective of the data you have collected. Statistics also have the problem that they rely on the quality of the available data. Subsequently if there are errors or exclusions form the data at hand, then the same will be true of your statistics.

In this essay I will be looking specifically at crime statistics. I will try to establish whether or not they give us a true representation of the levels of crime existing in today's society. Before I can answer this however I feel it is important to look at where from, and how crime data is collected.

Crime data comes from two general sources, observations and reports or surveys. One method of observation is Direct Crime Observation. Crime statistics can be gathered by observing criminal activity directly. Researchers can then monitor criminal activities in areas which have a history of criminal activity. Also those persons frequently involved in criminal acts, can also be monitored. However, there are some drawbacks to this method, such as the inaccuracies in calculated crime rates since only a few locations are observed. These kind of observation also have the inability to measure the motivation behind the crimes.

Direct crime observation also uses data from sources such as CCTV, increasingly found in town centres. This allows police to look at areas which are more susceptible to crime. It also helps to identify which members of the public are more at...